Archive - July, 2008

Interactive Wine Sites

Over the next few days, thanks to their well established brand and their PR muscle, you’ll probably see several headlines like this one:

Roederer champagne launches new interactive website

I don’t know about you, but the interaction I want with my wine involves drinking it!

I don’t understand these Flash-based websites (you might want to go off and start the page loading, then return to read the article while you wait – but remember to turn the sound off).

The vast majority of people browsing the internet for wine are looking for:

  1. background details
  2. stockist information
  3. a ‘deal’
  4. fun

(check out Able Grape’s take on this too)

Using Flash to promote your wine brand is like hiring a stand-up comedian with ADHD to be your spokesperson – however amusing he may be, he is getting in the way of the message.

Sure, with Flash you get bells and whistles. In fact, the Louis Roederer site is like a unicycling bear that is playing La Marseillaise on his bells and whistles, but what are they doing to address the needs of the customers? What is the goal of the ‘interactivity’ on this site?

(oh, and by the way, that unicycling bear keeps falling off and his bells are out of tune – the sound on the site is awful and I keep getting stuck, unable to go back)

Joel Vincent made an interesting observation on a recent post on his blog Wine Life Today:

My bottom line points are simple. I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer. The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it. So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Flash CAN be a great tool to aid this relationship, but all too often it seems to be used to create a barrier between the people behind a wine and its consumers – something akin to a prestidigitator’s distraction technique.

One might argue that this is exactly how Champagne has managed to create a strong stylish brand, separating itself from its plain and homely still wine cousins – we’re missing that ‘magic’ ingredient. Maybe that is why it was used and I’m the one who is missing the point.

In any case, my preference is for sites that engage me in a meaningful relationship, that have answers to my questions and encourage me to commit myself in some way to the brand in the way they are doing with me.

The interactivity I seek is knowing that the winery, or winemaker, cares what I think, and helps me to both taste and understand their wines. Here are a couple I have come across recently that make me feel this way.

Neither of these sites has spent anything like the amount of money Louis Roederer must have done, but I get so much more out of them because I feel I know the wine, the people and the reasons for their existence so much better and on a more personal level.

And talking of interactivity, I’d love to hear your comments on these sites as well. Have I missed the point on the Champagne site, or am I too committed to blogs? Let me know.

(Photo Let it Float, courtesy of hashmil)

Who can? The Wine Can can!

Who can make drinking wine from a can actually look cool and an attractive proposition?

Until today, I thought nobody could. But now, thanks to TheDieline.com I believe I may have found the answer:

The Wine Can


(photo borrowed from TheDieLine.com – please visit their site for more photos and other cool designs)

Not ANY old can, but a gloriously modern looking package with matt colours, nice graphics, and it is easily recyclable (I believe).

Of course, this is only at the prototype stage, but apparently the designers are looking for investors (and presumably wineries) to get involved and get this to market.

Of course, the issue will be cost. As with all innovations, this will probably be expensive, at least at first, on a per unit basis. The effect will be either to make the wine in this can appear more expensive than it is (limiting sales), or will require the marketing/distribution company to fill it with cheaper wine to offset this.

That would be a shame. What would be interesting would be to see an innovative, premium priced brand take the plunge and provide good quality wine in this package to attract early adopters to buy it AND enjoy the wine inside.

I’m always on the look out for packaging that is interesting, so if you know of any other such developments, please do let me know.

Wine for 3 year olds

{An imaginary, although by no means unexpected or far-fetched, conversation about wine with my daughter}

Daddy, why do you drink wine?

Well, darling, I like how it tastes and it is a nice thing for adults to drink with their dinner.

Why?

Well, wine is made in a special way so that it has all sorts of flavours. Some of them are really good to have with this meat, some of them are better with your pasta, but almost every bottle tastes different. I like to taste lots of different ones to see what they are like and which ones are most interesting.

Why?

Good question! We can drink all sorts of drinks, like milk, water, lime & soda, beer or even fruit juices, and wine is like them. But wine is different because it changes depending on how it is made, where it comes from, and who makes it. It means that I can learn a lot about different places in the world and about different ways of making wine that I never knew before. It is like you being at pre-school, every day I learn something new and exciting.

I like things that are new and exciting! Can I have some wine?

No, sorry darling. Wine is for adults.

(wait for it ….)

Why?

Well, because it has something in it that is not good for little girls and boys, but adults can have a little of, just like we discussed about salt. It’s called alcohol and it can make you feel unwell if you have too much. My body is bigger and more used to it, so I can have a little.

You can have a smell if you want?

Yes!

What do you smell?

Mmmm! Nice! … Fruit?

That right, dear! Wines smell of fruit and other thngs, and they are even made from fruit. Wine is actually made from grapes.

Why?

Well, grapes can be used to make wines that taste nice to adults, or they can be eaten by everyone just like you are having. But this wine didn’t smell of grapes did it? It had smells of strawberries and cherries, didn’t it?

Why?

Well, when you make wines, it changes their smell and the way they taste. You can even put it in wooden barrels to make it older and taste better, a bit like when we made that bread and we had to wait before we could eat it. It rested.

Why?

There are so many wines around the world that different wine makers find new ways to make their wines taste different and better, a bit like recipes. So they try new things and then we can see whether we like it or not.

One day, shall we go and see someone making wine?

Yes! And can I eat grapes?

Well, we’ll see! We can ask.

Daddy, one day, when I’m older, maybe when I’m a adult, I’m going to drink wine just like you and Mummy.

That’s great dear! But not too much, OK?

No! I don’t want to be like Silly Sammy Slick*

Excellent! Now, eat your grapes up!

====

This is all a fantasy, of course, but I know my daughter, and this is exactly how the conversation would go.

There are those who would hide their drinking from their kids, fearing they might somehow accidentally turn their little darlings into binge drinking pre-teens, but I’m of the totally opposite point of view. It does much more harm to hide your drinking than sharing your reasons for it. If you are not capable of moderate, responsible drinking, then of course you need to deal with that so your kids do not learn bad habits, but if you can, then share the enjoyment.

Wine, and other recreational drugs, may be an emotive subject for adults, but for kids it is just another part of life that they need to learn about. Not educating them is unfair on them, and stores up trouble for them, and for society, once they are more independent.

I fully expect to have difficult conversations with my daughter about alcohol in future, but it will not be because she has not had a chance to learn about it from me.

I wonder how this conversation would sound like when she is 10, or 15? If I’m still blogging, I’ll let you know.

(check out another recent dad’s take on this at 1WineDude)

* you need to be up on your Dr. Seuss for that line, but Silly Sammy Slick Sipped Six Sodas and was Sick, Sick, Sick!

Rosé? Why compromise?

I am back online (well I never left totally, this is an online addiction after all, but it has been hard to concentrate on projects).

I’ve got a few irons in the fire, but I thought I would make a quick comment on an interesting headline I read yesterday:

Rosé passes white wine as France’s favourite from The Telegraph

Wow! That is a LOT of rosé wine. I have not seen the underlying data to prove to myself that the French really are buying more rosé wine than white (this is the land of wonderful Chardonnay from Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc & Chenin Blanc from the Loire and all sorts of wonderful and exotic Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier and more from the Rhone).

Surely these are not being displaced by rosé?

Well, of course, there is the issue is of price & availability. The white wines I mention are the ones all wine lovers know, but how often do we drink them? We can all list them as “great wines”, but in practice we drink more lowly wines on a daily basis, and the French are no different. So instead, we look for interesting, new and ‘trendy’ wines, and the rosé trend is spreading around the world.

Even so, that is a lot of pink wine. In the UK, the last figures I saw had rosé sales still below 10% of all wine sales, so even with a big increase since then, they’d struggle to compete with white wine.

Another interesting comparison would be to see what types of rosé wines they are drinking. The much touted growth in UK sales are heavily biased towards the fruitier “blush” wines from California (White Zinfandel and White Grenache) whilst I imagine that even the ‘new’ young consumers in France, those who are ditching their parents’ conventions, would still blush to be seen drinking these wines.

But I must admit that the comment that really annoyed me, of all of this, was Evan Davis on the Today programme (where I first heard the news). He said:

“Sometimes, when you can’t decide between red & white, rosé seems the perfect compromise”

Compromise? What a shame to dismiss wines like that. Unfortunately, this is from one of the most educated men in the country working on one of the most influential programmes. OK, so it was a throw-away comment, but it shows that the Wine Conversation still has a long way to go to displace entrenched views.

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